What Would Happen If The South Seceded?

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 15.678% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

There’s a petition being circulated in Texas by nutballs, wanting to secede from the Union.  These are a minority of nutballs, rest assured.  I’m pretty sure if Texas voted to secede from the Union, it wouldn’t pass.
But what if the South did secede?
I’ve been pondering that idea over the past couple of days, as angry conservative Southerners have been all like, “Let’s secede!” and angry liberal Northerners have been all, “Let ’em go!  They’re a drag on our economy anyway!”  And as such, I’ve been intensely curious as to what happened if there was a peaceful Southern secession.
I mean, because I’ve been reading (and enjoying!) Daniel Abraham’s The Dragon’s Path series, which looks at a big ol’ fantasy world from the perspective of a banker.  And one of the recurring themes in the book is the necessity of trade between nations, and how that affects politics.  The plains don’t have mines for steel, the coastlines don’t have enough wood, nobody has enough spice.  So we have to ship those things back and forth, and come up with trade routes and protect them from bandits and set taxes on them, which creates a very complex admixture of cultures.
I mean, it’s all fine and well to say, “All right, South, secede!”  But Texas has the oil, and the South has a lot of the farmland, and probably a hundred other things we don’t think of as scarce now but would be if we suddenly had to trade at increased costs for them.  And I wish some economist would do a big study to find out what actually would cost more, and try to map out the first-level effects of those causes to both sides, if suddenly we were split into two.
I mean, Coke is headquartered in Atlanta.  Would there be a literal split, with extra taxes from a foreign corporation, where suddenly Pepsi became the drink of the North?
I don’t know.  Probably not, but I want someone smarter than me to figure this out, because it would be fascinating reading.


  1. Nayad
    Nov 13, 2012

    A scary dystopian theocracy of a country.

  2. Sage
    Nov 13, 2012

    I think you could tell from my comments yesterday, I truly hate the knee jerk reaction of how awesome it would be if the South/Red states were split, and the entire 2/3rds (area) of the country is a pointless dreg. Which, fine…may be the case entirely. I honestly don’t know…but I am pretty sure it’s not quite as simple as welfare and food stamp benefits. And though it seems to be the popular opinion…I kind of doubt it’d be only a huge amazing party of perfection in the blue states while the red ones turned into a third-world country overnight.
    Seems sort of simplistic.
    But could be entirely correct, what do I know.
    Off the top of my uninformed, unknowing head… corn, soybeans, cattle and other ag industry, coal and oil, ports of New Orleans, Houston, Norfolk, and Mobile, the majority of the land route/border to Mexico. There’re also military bases, NASA, rocket scientists etc…though I’d guess all that would make an exodus to the North due to enlightenment.
    Hmm I’d also be curious what the military recruiting stats are from the Red states.

    • TheFerrett
      Nov 14, 2012

      I think to think that the South is useless is just another form of bigotry. That’s why I think it’d have some dramatic effects.

  3. ilya
    Nov 13, 2012

    It’s ok. The prices on everything from the South would be lower because they would be even freer than now to crush labor and lower wages and taxes. It would be like having a third-world country next door.
    But seriously, I don’t think it would be such a big problem. The South would sell us things we currently get “for free” but then the North would sell them stuff too. And given that NAFTA already exists it’s doubtful there would be tariffs. I don’t think much would change economically.

  4. ilya
    Nov 13, 2012

    BTW, a book concerning this topic just came out recently. I haven’t read it so I don’t know how well-argued it is but it definitely peaked my interest when I spotted it at the book store.

  5. John Arkwright
    Nov 14, 2012

    The gasoline you buy now is probably not made from oil produced in your state. Some of it may be produced in Texas and sold to other states. And after secession, Texas would still sell its oil to other states/nations for the usual market price.
    Coke exports to other countries and has bottling operations in other countries. After secession, they still would do so.
    Oil companies, Coke, etc., are often corporations with diverse ownership–some foreign ownership, even. After secession, people in the UK would still own some shares of Coke, as would people in Ohio.
    We live in an economically interconnected world. The products made in your state are shipped all over the nation and the world–and the products you buy come from all over the nation and all over the world. Secession wouldn’t change that.

    • TheFerrett
      Nov 14, 2012

      I’m well aware. The question is not whether we wouldn’t get it, but how much more expensive it would become as a result of crossing borders and having new taxes added, as well as the competition – as noted elsewhere, Texas has almost all the helium in the world, so what happens when we start having to compete for that with everyone else?
      We live in an economically connected world is my very POINT. If China decides to jack us on rare earth metals, that could hurt us badly. Shortages of corn in America hurt people in Mexico who want tortillas. The concept that it’s all just one interchangeable fabric is a simplification to the point of ridiculousness.

      • John Arkwright
        Nov 15, 2012

        My unproven assertion is that since the US–ala Bill Clinton and a bipartisan congress–can recognize that lowering tariff barriers with NAFTA is a good thing, Texas and the US-T would also recognize this. Texas would want to import lots of stuff and erecting its own barriers might result in a costly trade war. So my prediction would be zero barriers to trade.
        With regard to the “jacking up the prices” ideas, I don’t see it, but that’s because of my profession. I view business as greedy, at every moment jacking up prices as much as possible. They are held back somewhat by (1) competition and (2) consumer willingness to pay. This applies to Taco Bell as well as to Texas helium.
        Since TB has more competition, their profit margin is much lower than for helium. But a Texas helium company is already charging the highest price they can get away with. If you don’t think so, then you must not think businesses are greedy. The fact that they’re exporting to a company in Ohio doesn’t matter to the helium company. They don’t care about red, white, and blue. They care about green. And their incentives are the same before and after secession.

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